Live the Good Life

An action packed gap year program for adventure seeking folks.

Experience new cultures. Find your people. Dive into yourself.

A group of young people pose for a gap year program photo, looking hip and silly

Who

14-18 participants, ages 17-23; plus our staff team.

Lake Atilan and the docks in front of the volcano San Pedro in Giatemala

Where

Colorado wilderness, Guatemala and/or Mexico and the Southwest.  Post program options to travel to Australia, Thailand, Spain and more.

An outdoor gap year program adventure, four smiling teens are backpacking with mountains in the background.

When

August 17, 2022 to November 21, 2022

young man smiling on the side of the road with his thumb up, hitchhiking

Cost

$8,900–Includes travel during the program (but not travel to Paonia to begin or home from where we end).

THE HIGH DESERT CENTER GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS COMPRISED OF TWO PHASES:

Living the Simple Life

August 17- October 12

The first semester of our gap year program is about wilderness challenge and life experience in rural Colorado.  Together we will practice the skills of self-sufficiency and community living. We will explore what makes us feel alive and how we adapt to challenges. We spend a lot of time outdoors: backpacking, camping, hiking and watching sunsets. Canyons, mountaintops and swimming holes on the river will be our playground. When we aren't out in the wilderness, we'll explore at home: canning peaches, making bread, meeting people, making music and enjoying the simple life.

Hitting the Road

October 13- November 21

The second part of our time together is about travel and adventure.  Our goal is to explore in a way that is raw, real, and spontaneous, We aim to get to know people and land. We seek to minimize the tourist feel and maximize the connection. For now we resist committing to exactly where our travels will take us.  In our modern world of pandemics and shifting politics, what seems like a good idea in one moment often seems impossible a few months later.  What we know is that we want to go south and experience other cultures.  In the past we have gone overland to Guatemala or traveled in the southwest and Mexico in our bus.

group of young people with backpacks on smiling in nature

Throughout the semester we will focus on:

Community Living

Do you crave the feeling of belonging and connection? Does growing your self awareness and your ability to navigate sticky situations sound exciting and a bit scary? You will create a tight-knit, magical community here. Together you will live in cabins, cook your meals from scratch, take on ambitious projects as teams, and learn about the practices and principles that create a deep and rich community. When things get challenging, you can count on someone checking in with you, listening to you, and asking questions that broaden your perspective. Over the semester you might find yourself surprised how close you feel to a group of people who were strangers only months before.

Adventuring

Adventure is a frame of mind.  It can happen anywhere and anytime when you say “yes!”    You can expect to climb mountains, explore canyons, or purposefully get lost without a sleeping bag only to spend a night around a fire-eating cactus fruit.  You can also expect to be surprised and find adventure in unexpected places, like the kitchen or under a bridge.  With adventure comes not only learning about things like primitive skills, orienteering, birding, and the night sky, but also the chance to practice designing and leading new adventure.  Most importantly, there comes the adventure mindset, and with that, even when you’re not in the mountains, the everyday challenges of work and home life can feel like adventurous fun.

Sustainability

One of our biggest modern-day challenges is living in a way that feels like a solution rather than part of the problem.  To us that means minimizing our negative impact while growing our resilience and adaptability and willingness to make courageous choices.  At the High Desert Center you will grow greens and make bread; build with recycled and natural materials; conserve water by using a composting toilet; and minimize fossil fuels use by taking showers with solar heated water.  You will also meet and learn from people who are happily living the simple life. And you will practice the process wherein all great things begin–a small group of people choosing something big that matters and then making it happen.

Looking for a Gap Year opportunity in the winter? Check out our HDC Winter Partners

We’ve found that some participants want to go abroad and desire some structure and support to get the most of their experiences after the program ends. Here are some partners we work with. Note that these have additional costs associated with them and are not a part of the fall gap year program.

SPAIN

Travel to the coast south of Valencia to live with a host family, volunteer at the local democratic school, and learn about artesian bread making from a local baker. Improve your Spanish, build relationships, soak up the culture, and don’t forget to eat the paella. This adventure is best suited for someone with a basic foundation in Spanish.

COST: $150/WEEK WITH A THREE WEEK MINIMUM. 2 PARTICIPANTS MAXIMUM

THAILAND

Experience Thailand while living in a community center focused on building the skills of self-reliance. You will learn how to save seeds, garden, and practice natural building. Take advantage of getting to know the indigenous cultures of the Karen, Hmong, Lisu, and Lahu people and experience life from the vantage point of a vastly different worldview.

COST: $250/WEEK WITH A THREE WEEK MINIMUM. 3 PARTICIPANTS MAXIMUM.

AUSTRALIA

Enjoy the fun of a family homestay in a wonderful old seaside home nestled among the urban Henley Beach. With good public transport and cycling path access, the city of Adelaide is in full summer swing for adventures and exploring.  Learn about permaculture, the indigenous Kaurna culture, and seaside lifestyle in Australia.
COST: $130/WEEK WITH A THREE WEEK MINIMUM. 2 PARTICIPANTS MAXIMUM

WHAT PARTICIPANTS SAY ABOUT OUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM

young woman wearing red top smiling

CORI SHOOTER

Belfast, ME

When I first arrived at the High Desert Center I could never have imagined how much I would grow to love and value all those unfamiliar faces I met in the airport. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of all the laugh-till-you-can’t-breathe moments, the sense of support and excitement every time we accomplished something together, and the tears both of sadness and of joy we would all share.

Young man smiling wearing floral shirt outdoors in the Colorado desert

KIERAN SMITH

Nevada City, CA

If you are looking for a Gap Year program where you expect the unexpected, this is it. Be prepared for something that will change you in ways you never anticipated. This program is an amazing combination of outdoor leadership skills, emotional growth, and community building, which makes for an amazing Gap Year that could never be repeated.

WHEN DO I APPLY?

Today! We are currently accepting applications.

Have more questions:

Where will you sleep? What will you eat? What will each day look like?

Can I Afford a Gap Year?

When we ask our students why they chose us, many say words like “community,” “philosophy” or “strong recommendations.”  Another thing we commonly hear is that our programs are affordable. Read more about how the HDC offers the most affordable gap year program out there.

A group of young people pose for a gap year program photo, looking hip and silly